The company that used to make high-performance Holdens has offered to help health authorities in Australia manufacture makeshift emergency medical equipment to treat coronavirus patients.
While Holden as a brand will close by the end of this year, its separately-owned performance-car offshoot has maintained its engineering and manufacturing resources because it will continue to sell US vehicles here, such as the Chevrolet Silverado (pictured below).
The Melbourne engineering company responsible for building Holden Special Vehicles for the past three decades – Walkinshaw Automotive Group – began manufacturing US pick-ups from left- to right-hand-drive once Holden's assembly line closed in October 2017.
The same tools required to make those engineering changes can also be used to make temporary emergency medical equipment such as hospital ventilators.
Car companies use 3D printers to make prototype parts from high strength plastic, to check that a component fits when building a test vehicle from the ground up.
The same technology can also be used to make hospital ventilators in a matter of hours, although once assembled they are designed to operate for months not years.
Walkinshaw Automotive Group owner Ryan Walkinshaw told CarAdvice: “(We) have actually put our hand up to make medical supplies, and primarily ventilators, for Australia. We have messaged various government contacts to explore this. Awaiting further response. The time to act is now, though, not in four weeks.”
Mr Walkinshaw added: “To help emergency departments treat patients affected by COVID-19, we have raised our hand to help both Federal and Victorian governments to design, engineer and assemble any emergency medical equipment that be made with a 3D printer.”
Holden Special Vehicles uses 3D printers to design parts for its performance cars and US pick-ups.
“We would need the blueprints to the design of these ventilators, but we can help once we have the right information,” said Mr Walkinshaw.
Since Holden stopped making cars in Australia in October 2017, the Walkinshaw Automotive Group shifted its focus to re-engineering and converting US vehicles to factory standards from left- to right-hand-drive.
Walkinshaw Automotive Group employs approximately 800 workers – including 100 engineers – on eight production lines at two sites in the Melbourne suburbs of Clayton and Epping. It also owns the Walkinshaw Andretti United V8 Supercars racing team, which also uses 3D printers to design race-car parts.
Last year the Walkinshaw Automotive Group did the final assembly for more than 6000 imported Holden, Chevrolet and Ram vehicles and 2500 locally-made New Age caravans.
The offer of help from Holden Special Vehicles follows announcements late last week and over the weekend that the world's biggest car makers will be drafted to help make hospital ventilators from 3D printers.